Thank you very much, Director General Powell. First, to Terry Barnich’s family, on behalf of not only the State Department and USAID, but the United States Government, President Obama, and a grateful nation, we extend our sympathy and condolences on this loss.
It seems somehow fitting that on this National Day of Mourning, as we remember the thousands of people who lost their lives in the attacks of September 11th
, we come together to celebrate one man who saw people who needed help and decided to act, who left a comfortable life to go to a war zone, because he felt called to use his skills to help rebuild a devastated nation, and who serves as an example to the world of how compassion can move any one of us to do extraordinary things on behalf of those who may never know his name but whose lives are better because of his work.
Terry Barnich wore many hats. He had the kind of talent that can make a person restless. He was a lawyer, a campaigner, a policy wonk, an entrepreneur, a public servant, a talented executive. Those were his day jobs. He was also a Chicagoan, a writer, a proud product of Jesuit education, a cherished son, brother, uncle, and husband-to-be.
Terry did not have to go to Iraq. He left a thriving career and an enormous community of friends and family to join the State Department as the Deputy Director of the Iraq Transition Assistance Team. He signed up for an 11-month stint. More than two years later, he was still there.
He labored day and night to do the difficult, thankless, and essential work of rebuilding Iraq’s energy infrastructure, delivering power to people across that country, even in remote places far from Baghdad. The week he died, as Under Secretary Pat Kennedy said, Iraq broke its record for electricity production, thanks in large part to Terry’s leadership.
I understand that people often asked him why he worked so hard for such a remote, challenging country. Terry wrote his answer in an op-ed for his hometown paper, and here’s what he said: “To those back home who say the Iraqi experience has made the Iraqis unready or incapable for democracy, I say come work with me. I deal with Iraqis who daily brave physical hardship, violence, and threats of violence, to make their contributions in building a government that deserves the consent of the governed.”
Terry believed not only in what his country – our country, the United States – was trying to accomplish in Iraq, but he believed so deeply in the principles and values that represent the very best of our country. He saw the opportunity to serve and he decided to answer that call.
One of the ways that we are attempting to honor all those who were lost on September 11th
and who were lost, both military and civilian, in the years since, in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, is by turning today into a National Day of Service. Later today, I’ll be in New York to address a large gathering of those public servants who rushed into danger when others were fleeing; those family members like this family who lost a dear one.
And today, we honor the life and service of another hero. We’re very grateful to Terry for his extraordinary service and for the example he sets. We are deeply sorry for the loss that is felt most acutely by his mother, his sister and brother, his sister-in-law and brother-in-law, and his nephew and his fiancée. And we mourn with you.
In a newspaper interview this summer, Terry’s mother said this about her son: “He was amazing. Of course, I was his mother.” For his courage, his selflessness, his determination and his faith – not only his religious faith that guided and molded him, but his faith in the power of people to make this world a better place – we honor Terry, and we agree with his mother. He was amazing. And on this day, of all days, we honor his memory and the legacy he left behind and we recommit ourselves to fulfill his dream. It was not just about Iraq or the Iraqi people. It was about who we are as Americans, about our character, our commitment, and our faith.
My God continue to bless Terry Barnich and his family and all those here in the State Department and USAID who work as he did on behalf of a better future for all. Thank you and God bless you.